Five things that stood out from the England and France game:

1: The match was a fantastic example of different playing styles and the type of player required to successfully, or not, produce each. France played a methodical, short passing, possession and control focus game. They were undone by their failure to find the final ball, being reduced by England's suffocating defence to half chances and long shots. To work, such a tactical approach generally requires a technically accomplished, creative and composed midfielder setting up a chance on a plate for player breaking past the back line into the box. That France never really looked like achieving this is partially down to the excellence of the English defending and partially down to the relative creative weakness of their central midfield. With only Nasri really able to unlock the door, and even he not a creative, technical genius, France too often got crowded out in the final third.

After Chelsea's unexpected triumph in the 2012 Champions League final, the British media immediately began asking questions about whether Roberto Di Matteo would become Chelsea manager on a permanent basis. Lets make no bones about it, what he has achieved thus far is quite remarkable. He has taken an aging, dysfunctional squad ravaged by injuries and suspensions and turned them into champions of Europe, en route beating the fourth and fifth most successful European sides in history, the former in the final at their stadium. 


The post match analysis has brought greater insight into Di Matteo's methods. His merging of contemporary communications technology and traditional family well-wishing as a motivational tool was inspired and inspirational. His pragmatic approach to man and tactical management enabled the players, so dysfunctional under Villas-Boas, to rediscover the tight knit unity and group self-belief of the Mourinho era. Most especially, the old guard, so alienated under the previous regime, threw off the years and bad attitude and played for the team, with Lampard especially disciplined when operating as a screening midfielder, something he is  hardly suited for. 

As many successful CEOs and executives have found out to their chagrin, success in managing a corporation does not equate to success in managing a football club, or indeed any sporting institute. For many, the underlying reason is the politics of a sports club are entirely different from those of an organization. A club has to answer to members, players, supporters, management and the executive in a way that, despite the increased focus on sustainability and stakeholders, modern corporations do not. For a members club, management has to keep often very disparate groups of members happy, which requires them to creatively juggle contradictory imperatives. For a top flight football club, management has to cope with three distinct inputs, the commercial needs of the club, the necessity of developing a competitive team and the demands of the supporting community. Blackburn Rovers look to be failing at each level.

Monday, 23 April 2012 00:47

Tennis Management - A British Horror Story

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With recent figures illustrating that the number of active tennis players in the UK is falling ever further, the European tennis season is looking as bleak as ever for British tennis players and fans. Unless one of the ladies makes an unexpected breakthrough, British tennis hopes lie again on the shoulders of Andy Murray and the ridiculous media obsession about his supposed shortage of match-winning mentality, lack of character and charisma, and hatred for the English! All of which deflects attention from the real issue of why tennis in the UK continues to go through such a hard time.Indeed, there are so many reasons for the paucity of British tennis that it is difficult to know where to start.

Having played an active part in the running and managing of a number of sports clubs around the world and in my role as sometime tactical advisor to Sports Interactive's Football Management simulation, I have spent a fair amount of time reading and researching approaches to tactical and development ideas and strategies across a number of sports. With Chelsea due to defend their narrow one goal lead against Barcelona next Tuesday, I thought I'd re-post an analysis I made in response to a Guardian article on last year's final. I found it fascinating that one team had the sophistication to adapt to a problem on the fly, whereas the other failed to modify their strategy at all. I hope you find it interesting too. 

Thursday, 19 April 2012 04:53

Cultural Racism in Denmark

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Prior to your reading on, let me preface this by declaring that I love Copenhagen and all things Danish. I spent seven happy years living in Norrebro, just tucked between Peblinge So and the walking section of funky, multi-cultural Blagadesgade. I've been fortunate enough to eat at Noma when it was still possible to get a table, DJ at Norrebro's trendy Bodega, watch FCK play Lazio in the Champion's League at Parken and work as a communications consultant all over the city. I get a twinge of pride when I hear Denmark declared to be the happiest place in the world to live. However, there is a dark side to the country. Unfortunately, cultural racism is rife.